22nd March, 2012
Zimbabwe’s U-20 women’s soccer side recently made light work of Mozambique, thumping their neighbours 7-0 in the first round of the FIFA World Cup qualifier. But Nigeria’s Falconets are not Mozambique, or are they?
This is what the Langton Giwa-coached side will find out when the two sides face-off in the second round of the qualifying series on Saturday, 31 March. Having participated in all the five FIFA World Cups since 2002, the Nigerian girls are not an ordinary opposition.
They were the first African nation to reach the finals of the prestigious event – losing 0-2 to hosts, Germany, two years ago. Giwa’s charges will be under-dogs when they march onto the turf at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abeokuta, Ogun State. But that does not mean that they cannot twist the scales.
The Falconets are taking this game seriously, having set up a two-week training camp in Abuja that continues in Abeokuta this week, under the guidance of Chief Coach, Edwin Okon.
The Zimbabweans have no international experience to brag about – both on the bench and within the lines, but the talent displayed by Rufaro Machingura, Emmaculate Msipa and Rutendo Makore has raised hopes.
“It will be a tough match,” assistant coach, Sithethelelwe Sibanda told The Zimbabwean. “Nigeria are experienced and they know what they want, but we have also prepared well and the girls know how tough this is going to be. I believe they are also mentally prepared.”
While the Zimbabweans were celebrating their more than half a dozen goals over Mozambique, Nigeria were enjoying the comfort of easing through, after Sierra Leone pulled out for financial challenges.
Germany, Italy, Norway and Switzerland (UEFA); Japan (hosts), North Korea, China and Korea Republic (AFC), and Argentina and Brazil (CONMEBOL) have already qualified for the global showcase.
The Young Mighty Warriors are seeking to occupy the two slots for African teams, as eight compete in the second round (between 30 March and 15 April). The third round is set to hold from 4-20 May.